The epistemology and the phenomenology of perception are closely related insofar as both depend on experiences of self-evident objectivity-experiences in which the objectivity of a state of affairs is evident from within our experience of that state of affairs. Jennifer Church offers a distinctive account of perception, showing how imagining alternative perspectives and alternative possibilities plays a key role in creating and validating experiences of self-evident objectivity. Offered first as an account of what it takes to perceive ordinary objects such as birds and trees, the account is then extended to show how it is also possible to perceive such things as causes, reasons, mental states, distant galaxies, molecular arrangements, mathematical relations, and interpersonal obligations. A chapter is devoted to the phenomenology and epistemology of moral perception, including the perception of persons as such; and a chapter is devoted to the peculiarities of aesthetic perception, including the perception of artworks as such. In all of these cases, Church argues, perception can be literal (not merely figurative or metaphorical) and substantive (not merely formal or deflationary).
Her account helps to explain the advantages of perceptual versus non-perceptual knowledge. It also helps to make sense of some historical discussions of the role of the imagination in acquiring and validating knowledge, in relation to Plato's cave, Descartes' explanation of rational intuition, and Kant's arguments concerning objectivity, causality, and the Categorical Imperative.